Sixteen years ago I had a series on radio called Turning Back the Clock, which I presented in response to listeners in their 50’s and 60’s looking for rejuvenation and tips on staying young. Like me they were exasperated by the claims of the cosmetic industry that the various ingredients in their products could knock ten years off their age. I was asked to design a diet that would help reverse the signs of aging and this developed into a weekly challenge that was undertaken by nearly 100 listeners. The series became a book in 2010.
I try to practice what I preach! And certainly so far I have managed to maintain healthy key indicators such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol without medication, much to the surprise of my doctor!
In my opinion the answer to turning back the clock by several years is to consider and address a number of factors which include physical, emotional and mental age markers.
Link to part to Part Seven and how attitude of mind goes a long way to making you feel younger: Here
In this post I am going to be looking at exercise in general as an anti-aging tool and then exercises to increase flexibility. I think that it is important to review exactly why it is so important for the body to move and exercise regularly.
A great start to becoming fitter is to learn how to breathe correctly and I covered that in Part Six
Our bodies were never designed to be static and the saying “Use it or Lose It” is very appropriate. If you were to leave your car parked up without moving it for months on end you would expect that certain parts would certainly rust and parts like the tyres would probably perish and be unusable. If you left your battery connected it is likely to be flat as a pancake. In short, the car would be kaput.
The same thing applies to us. Muscles wither and shrink – we accumulate fat – bones become soft and brittle and our internal systems are sluggish and unresponsive. We can suffer from depression and we certainly slide further and further down the slippery slope of ill health the longer it goes on.
Is it ever too late to take up exercise?
No, it certainly is not. Although I would recommend that if you have been sedentary for a long time that you talk to your doctor before embarking on a marathon training course, if you start out slowly and carefully, within weeks you will be feeling and looking a great deal better.
What sort of health benefits can someone expect from doing simple exercises such as walking?
As I mentioned in the post on breathing, you do not have to race around doing aerobics and playing squash to obtain the aerobic (oxygen) benefits you need.
If you are doing the breathing exercises and combine these with a walking programme that increases in intensity over a period of weeks you will be getting all the benefits you need. In fact recent research is showing that if you are not fit, it can be dangerous for some people to contemplate marathon running if their heart muscle is not as healthy as it needs to be for that sort of sustained activity.
Even moderate exercise, for example, can reduce the risk of:
- Coronary Heart Disease,
- High Blood Pressure,
- Bowel Cancer,
- Alzheimer’s disease,
All these conditions are ones that head the list of the leading causes of aging, so walking is definitely up there as an exercise of choice. If you are trying to lose weight and especially if you are very overweight, walking is the safest and most sensible way to exercise to begin with.
One of the most interesting studies that I read showed a very clear connection between exercise and recovery rates from breast cancer. Results showed that women who exercised between three and five hours a week doubled their chances of a full recovery and survival. Women who were sedentary were twice as likely to die from the disease. I find that very compelling and more than enough reason to exercise daily – this must also apply to recovery rates from other cancers too, logically.
Apart from increasing bone and muscular strength it will also increase your joints range and flexibility. Perversely, doing more exercise can ease the pain of rheumatic joints and if you know elderly. regular walkers you will see what a great posture they have.
What sort of exercise programme should we be following?
Despite the restrictions imposed on us on leaving our homes, in most places exercise is permitted within an designated area in our neighbourhood.
- Everyone should be out there every day in the fresh air for at least 20 minutes.
- Brisk walking is the best and being slightly breathless is the point at which you will be fat burning and helping your body to lose fat and form muscle.
- If you are currently walking for 20 minutes per day then you need to measure the distance you are walking.
- Over the next 6 weeks raise the time you walk to 40 minutes per day and you can split that if you like.
- Walking uphill during part of your walk will increase the intensity but the right walking speed for you depends on your age and sex.
- Over a period of time, aim to walk at an average speed of 3 to 4 miles per hour.
- Do not overdo it – this is not a challenge but a gradual way to increase your level of fitness, health and youthfulness over a period of weeks and not days.
How important is our flexibility as we get older?
We can maintain our flexibility and actually improve it as we get older. The main reason we get stiff as we age is because we stop moving our bodies into different positions. The body is designed to move, not stay sitting, or slouching, the majority of the time! The more flexibility and space we have in our bodies, the deeper the breaths can be which as you read in the previous chapter has so many vital health benefits.
3 simple exercises to increase flexibility
Stand with hands by your side and as you inhale your breath, raise your arms slowly until they are above your head in a straight line with the rest of your body. At the same time as you raise your arms, also lift your heels to stretch the whole body upwards, whilst on tip toe. When you exhale lower the arms slowly and the heels back to the floor it is also a balance exercise so it helps develops concentration and focus. Keep your eyes fixed on a point during the exercise. Repeat 7/8 times.
It is important not to do this exercise if you have a chronic back problem. Also only do a gentle arch to start with and increase the height over a period of weeks.
Go onto all fours. Hands placed on the floor under the shoulders and your knees under the hips. Imagine what a cat looks like when it gets up to stretch after napping. It arches its back up into the air.
Now with the back flat, exhale and arch the spine up, dropping your head into a relaxed position. Your abdomen is drawn up to support the spine in the arched position. Pause to feel the stretch. Inhale slowly flattening the back again. Pause. Exhale; slowly arch the spine up again etc. Always work slowly. Repeat at least 8 times.
This posture is universally recognised as one of the best to help lower back pain but again make sure that you do not attempt if you are very sore. Take it gently over a period of time.
Lie down on your back. Inhale taking your arms back above your head, exhale bringing the right knee to your chest with your hands around it, to draw it in closer. Inhale as you lower your arms back down to your side and your leg back on the ground. Exhale bringing the left knee up with hands on it…and continue 8 times to each knee. Then 8 more times with both knees coming to chest together.
Then relax and lie flat for several minutes to appreciate what you have done and enjoy the benefits of the movements and deep breathing.
Some of you may already be enjoying the benefits of yoga and already perform these breathing exercises…if not then perhaps these two charmers might persuade you…
Other forms of exercise. When you reach a level of fitness that you are comfortable with then take to another level. For some people Yoga, Tai chi are wonderful for keeping the body supple and for others tennis, squash, jogging or pehaps one of the self-defence options!
For me swimming is top of the list and it does not take long for me to get fit if I swim for 45 minutes three times a week. It is exercises virtually every muscle in the body including the facial muscles when you jump in and find the water is only 15 degrees! In the absence of that currently, I can be found with headphones attached prancing around the kitchen as I bulk prepare vegetables three times a week… rock ‘n’ roll definitely never gets old…
Dancing is also fantastic exercise provided you do not have knee problems but after several weeks of walking or swimming you may find that has improved enough to take to the floor.
To encourage you one of my favourite dance videos of a couple who are fabulous and boy does he have some moves!!
©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2021
Thank you for dropping by and I would love to read your comments…please join me next week for a post on the youth enhancing benefits of taking care of the face and body we present to the world..thanks Sally.